Kentucky aluminum project could lose backer
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Kentucky aluminum project could lose backer

Unity Aluminum, formerly Braidy Industries, has lost the backing of Russia’s Rusal, at least temporarily.

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March 22, 2021

Russia-based metals firm Rusal reportedly has announced a halt to its funding of the Unity Aluminum facility near Ashland, Kentucky. That proposed $1.3 billion aluminum plant, which started out as Braidy Industries, has been struggling to line up investors since it was announced in the spring of 2017.

A March 17 report by Bloomberg says Rusal is “suspending investments” in Unity Aluminum until the company’s executives can raise additional funds. Arranging investors has proven difficult for the project’s backers, who in addition to Rusal secured some backing from the administration of the prior governor of Kentucky, but seemingly not enough interest beyond that.

The initial Braidy Industries timetable called for the scrap-fed 370,000-ton-per year plant to be completed in 2020. Instead, the project has been marked by personnel changes at the executive and board of directors level, with at least one departure involving a lawsuit and countersuit.

Although hailed by former Gov. Matt Bevin as an economic development victory, some of the project’s initial backers and the subsequent boardroom drama have drawn regular scrutiny from the Louisville, Kentucky-based Courier-Journal and other media outlets in the state.

According to Bloomberg, Rusal announced its funding halt during a financial results conference call on March 17, with the firm noting that it had “so far poured $65 million into the venture.”

Bloomberg quotes Rusal Deputy CEO Oleg Mukhamedshin as saying, “Unfortunately, our partner failed to contribute necessary equity from their side, [and] then [there] was a substantial change of management and the shareholder structure of Braidy Industries. We put on hold any further investments of the project as per our agreement, and we still expect our partners to raise necessary financing after the COVID pandemic gets better.”

On its website, Unity continues to describe its goal as the construction of a 1.5-million-square-foot “fully integrated aluminum rolling mill” to be built on 240 acres near Ashland, though it now puts the price tag at $2.2 billion.